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Grandmother Retains Custody Despite Out-of-State Father’s Request

Grandmother Retains Custody Despite Out-of-State Father’s Request

October 01, 2020

In this case, filed on August 7 but certified for publication on August 28, the Second District affirmed a Los Angeles County juvenile court’s order holding that placing 12-year-old C out of state with her father would be detrimental to her emotional well-being.

“When the Department filed its petition, Daughter did not know her father. Daughter had not lived with him since she was a toddler. Mother said she and Father separated due to domestic violence. Father said he left because he and Mother were no longer getting along. He denied physically harming Mother. After leaving Mother and Daughter, Father had little contact with them and did not pay child support. Mother said Father stopped all contact years ago after she asked him for financial help buying a Christmas present for Daughter.”

“…Father lives in Washington State with his wife and seven-year-old son. He is self-employed and financially stable. Father wants a relationship with Daughter. According to Father’s wife, Mother did not allow Father to see Daughter. Daughter does not want to live with Father. She wants to visit him, but only on holidays or in the summer. Daughter sees Father as a stranger who could have reached out to her over the years but did not. She is uncomfortable being on her own with Father. Not knowing his family well also makes her uncomfortable.”

“…At the disposition hearing, Father’s counsel switched position and argued Father was entitled to custody of Daughter under section 361.2, subdivision (a). Counsel maintained Father is nonoffending and has a good home; Daughter has a half sibling in Washington; and Daughter recently visited with his family and reported no concerns. According to Father, Mother kept Daughter from him. Father never sought court involvement before due to his immigration status. He now wants to make up for lost time. Daughter’s counsel asked that Daughter not be released to Father. Citing the therapist’s report, counsel argued that release would be detrimental to Daughter’s emotional well-being. The juvenile court ultimately declared Daughter and her half brother dependents under section 300 and ordered them removed from Mother. The court also found it would be detrimental to place Daughter with Father.”

“The dispositional order was proper. Substantial evidence supports the juvenile court’s detriment finding…The evidence shows Daughter is strongly attached to her mother, half brother, and maternal family. They are loving. Daughter is thriving in her grandmother’s home. She sees Mother daily and wants to reunify with her. She has many friends, enjoys school, and is excelling academically. Daughter does not want to leave this life and go live with Father. Daughter actually fears this prospect. He is a stranger to her. She has not heard from him in over five years. Her anxiety about residing with Father is consuming. She cannot sleep. Daughter’s therapist concludes removing Daughter from her half brother and the only family she has known in this way would be detrimental to her mental health, affect her academic stability, and cause “considerable emotional strain.” Daughter’s attorney agreed. This evidence amply supports the juvenile court’s finding Daughter would suffer emotionally if placed with Father.”

Read the court’s opinion here.

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